Sunday, 22 May 2011

Walnut squares

Almost 2 months ago Dana and Amit left to the far far east. Before they left we all met on a breezy Friday afternoon in a small patch of grass by the park. To our left an avant-garde theatre group was in the midst of rehearsals, hanging down from trees and making screeching sounds. To our right, fluorescently bright jacket donning folk carried around rakes and gathered scraps to build a local igloo.

I came to the spring picnic carrying a tray of the ‘take-away walnuts version of pecan pie’. The time consuming pie crust was replaced by a crumble pressed tightly and baked. The pecans were substituted for walnuts and mixed with brown sugar and grape molasses, turning gooey and sticky once baked. A dollop of sour cream rounded it all up, as always does.

Grape molasses is not that common a product, but if you can get your hands on a bottle- do. Traditionally, in both Turkey and Bethlehem the locals practice Islam, so instead of wine making, the grapes are preserved in the form of raisins and molasses, also called Dibs. The must is boiled and cooked down similar to date and carob honey, and the molasses, traditionally, is mixed with tahini for a quick and natural sweet spread. I also use it in baking, cooking and dressings. The dark syrup is less sweet then honey or maple syrup, a tribute I’m always happy to encounter. Not- too- sweet sweets are under valued, I find, and these walnut squares are just that- just sweet enough.

By now, D&A, I imagine, are somewhere on the far side of the globe, enjoying what I hope is the best foods of their lives; Bahn Mi, steaming Pho, rolls, dumplings, prawns, rice and all sorts of herbs.

It aint half bad around here either. x

Walnut squares

Heavily adapted from Saveur

(About 20-25 squares)

100gr cold unsalted butter, diced

1 cup + 2 Tbs AP flour

2 tbs + ½ cup dark brown sugar

¾ cup grape molasses (substitute with date honey or maple syrup)

1 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely

¼ tsp salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Sour cream, for serving

  1. Heat the oven to 175°C. Butter and flour a square brownie baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a food processor, add butter, 1 cup flour and 2 Tbs brown sugar and process until combined.
  3. Transfer the sandy mixture to the pan and using your fists, press evenly and tightly into bottom. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining flour, sugar, molasses, walnuts, salt, and eggs until combined.
  5. Pour the mixture over the baked crust and bake until golden brown and set, about 30–35 minutes.
  6. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Note: for variation, try using different types of nuts , or a mixture of various nuts and seeds.


  1. Dearest N,
    Bánh xèo, Cao lầu, Bún chả and many more, but when an Indian restaurant is in the neighborhood, u'll know where to find us...

  2. Sounds lovely as a sort of a healthy version for the (unfortunately not so healthy) Pecan Pie!
    But where did you get the dibs from? The North? Wouldn't it be too heavily sweet to use the maple syrup insted?

  3. I got Dibs from a deli in East Jerusalem, the only place I've seen it so far. Date honey (or carob honey) should also do the trick.
    In terms of sweetness, the original recipe called for maple syrup but reduced the quantity of syrup and sugar, so it shouldn't be too sweet.
    Let me know how it turns out!